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Posted at 1:39 PM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Weighing Adam LaRoche and a first base platoon

By Adam Kilgore

The most obvious choice to play first base for the Nationals next season is Adam LaRoche. The Nationals are the team most in need of a first baseman, and LaRoche is the best free agent first baseman available in need of team. But LaRoche joining the Nationals is not necessarily a given at this point.

Given what remains on the free agent market for first basemen, the Nationals do not want to overpay or lock themselves into one of those players for in the long term. LaRoche is apparently holding out for a multi-year contract.

Once Derrek Lee agreed to terms with the Orioles, it seemed almost a certainty that LaRoche would reach a deal with the Nationals -- the song had stopped playing and there was one chair left.

But here's the thing: LaRoche is basically a league average first baseman. And there are plenty of ways -- cheap ways that leave a team with flexibility -- to replicate a league average first baseman. The Nationals will have to determine if signing LaRoche to a two-year deal is worth the upgrade from some cheaper options that afford more flexibility for next offseason, when players who would represent a significant improvement at first base, like Prince Fielder (a Scott Boras client) and Albert Pujols, are scheduled to be free agents. There is value is simply not having an average first baseman under contract for 2012.

First, to be clear, "average" is not a knock on LaRoche. It means he is one of the 15 or 20 best first basemen on planet Earth. But first base is the most premium offensive position, and you don't necessarily want to or need to lock yourself into one who isn't an elite offensive player.

So why should LaRoche be considered average? Consider his splits and the league average for first basemen from 2010.

LaRoche: 615 plate appearances, .261 average, .320 on-base percentage, .468 slugging percentage, 25 home runs, 37 doubles, 100 RBI, 106 OPS+

League average first baseman: 650 plate appearances, .264 average, .350 on-base percentage, .452 slugging percentage, 23 home runs, 32 doubles, 85 RBI, 120 OPS+

The Nationals could plausibly match LaRoche's production with a platoon including Michael Morse. In one scenario, they wouldn't even have to sign anybody. The Nationals believe Rick Ankiel, though he has not done it before, could play first base on a limited basis.

Last season, Ankiel hit .256/.339/.462 against right-handed pitchers. Morse hit .295/.374/.625 against left-handed pitchers. For comparison's sake, here's how a left-right platoon of Morse and Ankiel would have fared in 2010:

Morse/Ankiel platoon: 276 plate appearances, .270 average, .351 on-base percentage, .520 slugging percentage, 14 home runs, 15 doubles, 38 RBI (no OPS+ available).

If you extrapolate the counting stats out for 650 plate appearances, Morse/Ankiel would have hit 33 home runs and 35 doubles with 89 RBI in a left-right platoon.

Now, the point is not to suggest that Rick Ankiel should be playing first against right-handed starting pitchers for the Nationals in 2010. The point is how manageable it is to find production that would approximate the league average, which is the best the Nationals could do on the free agent market right now.

Another example: Russell Branyan made $1.5 million last season, and he remains unsigned for 2010. In 276 at-bats against right-handed pitchers last year, he hit .254/.352/.522 with 19 home runs and 17 doubles. A right-left platoon of Branyan and Morse in 2010 would have produced a higher OPS than an average major league first baseman.

A platoon with Morse would provide other benefits beyond flexibility next offseason. It allows the Nationals to give Morse consistent playing time and continue to determine if his breakthrough 2010 season is an aberration or a sign of things to come. Finding that out should be an objective for the 2011 season. If it's the latter, then Morse would be a viable future first base candidate, and he's under team control for several more seasons.

It would also give the Nationals more flexibility. If Morse continues to show he deserves more playing time, he could also play outfield against right-handed starters or simply start playing every day at first base. If he has trouble with right-handers, then he can remain in the platoon.

Again, the point of this post is not to deride LaRoche. (If it was, there would have been many, many more comparisons to Adam Dunn.) He is a quality player and would be a fine option if the Nationals can sign him to a reasonable one-year contract. If they can't, than there are other options that may be wiser in the short-term and the long-term.

By Adam Kilgore  | January 3, 2011; 1:39 PM ET
 
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Comments

I have no problem with the Nats using Morse at 1B, but that makes us extremely weak at LF - and CF I might add.

Adding Laroche, would allow the Nats to keep Morse's bat in the lineup at LF. And if Bernadina could win the CF job and push Morgan to the bench, then we'd be improved at CF and RF (Werth) and OK at LF and 1B.

Still not sure why we got rid of Willingham. It just seems like the Nats filled one hole in RF, while making 2 more in LF and 1B.

Posted by: comish4lif | January 3, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't count your chickens. Fielder and Pujols are scheduled to be free agents? Notwithstanding that there will be other teams bidding for those players, if they are available -- they might just re-sign with their current teams. That really shouldn't be the consideration. I'd be more interested in whether the Nats think they will have a homegrown option in a year or two.

Posted by: fischy | January 3, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Lookd like I'm not the only one who has a hard time envisioning Pujols actually getting to free agency.

St. Louis will make him an offer he can't refuse, right?

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 3, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

3 things...

Agreed that Laroche production may not wildly exceed Morse/Ankiel production... but forcing Morse/Ankiel to play first base basically reduces our OF depth to jack... we would be stuck with Bernie, Morgan and Werth and that's about it...

And... nothing against the athletic ability of Morse/Ankiel... but if we are willing to go through more years of having a transplanted OF playing shoddy defense at 1b, then why didn't we offer big money to Dunn?

And, lastly... Albert Pujols is a free agent... he calls the Nats and says I want to sign with you for $XX,XXX,XXX dollars for X amount of years... and, the Nats say "ummm, we would, but we have Adam Laroche under contract for 2012 so it just wouldn't work out for us"...

Yeah, right...

Posted by: Ghost7 | January 3, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

>>St. Louis will make Pujois an offer he can't refuse, right? Posted by: JohninMpls

No. Everyone knows Pujois is simply counting down the days until he can realize his dream of becoming a Washington National. It's inevitable. And he's even going to give the Lerners what they crave and value most in this world, a DISCOUNT. As Radar would say....Wait on it. Yes my friends...Patience and Albert will be yours.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | January 3, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

>>St. Louis will make Pujois an offer he can't refuse, right? Posted by: JohninMpls

No. Everyone knows Pujois is simply counting down the days until he can realize his childhood dream of becoming a Washington National. It's inevitable. And he's even going to give the Lerners what they crave and value most in this world, a DISCOUNT. As Radar would say....Wait on it. Yes my friends...Patience and Albert will be yours.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | January 3, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Phase II is beginning to resemble Phase I. What a hideous thought.

Posted by: NatsFly | January 3, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

First, these are not splits. Splits refer to some kind of breakdown (or "split" out) segment of a player's stats, often by handedness of the opponent, month, etc.

Second, these stats show that LaRoche is actually quite a bit inferior to the average first-baseman.

>>>>


So why should LaRoche be considered average? Consider his splits and the league average for first basemen from 2010.

LaRoche: 615 plate appearances, .261 average, .320 on-base percentage, .468 slugging percentage, 25 home runs, 37 doubles, 100 RBI, 106 OPS+

League average first baseman: 650 plate appearances, .264 average, .350 on-base percentage, .452 slugging percentage, 23 home runs, 32 doubles, 85 RBI, 120 OPS+

Posted by: sbiel2 | January 3, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

How about instead of balling wax and chewing gum they commit to a good fielding, decent power #s first baseman for 2-3 years? Wishful thinking that either Fielder or Pujols would sign here and why attempt to switch Ankiel to 1B - stop being so bleepin' cheap Nats ownership! Cripes, they paid Guzman $8 mil/year and basically flushed $2 mil down the toilet on Wang - here you have a healthy, year over year "average" producing 1B whose #s might go up a bit b/t Werth and Z man and what, they don't want to "lock in" for 2 years ala Dunn when he signed? LAME!

Posted by: terrapin31590us | January 3, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The Plan,,,,Phase 1....Phase 2.....By any other name, it's still simply:
The Lerners.............and as such, it's business as usual.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | January 3, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Adam, for another post making clear how idiotic Rizzo's decision not to re-sign Dunn was. Dunn didn't fit Rizzo's notion of a "perfect" first baseman, so now we are left with hoping--hoping--to replicate league average. A great example of how the perfect is the enemy of the good. Here's a novel idea: how about Rizzo tries to get good first?

Also note how all the talk about the importance of finding a solid defensive first baseman has gone out the window as the Nats speculate about converting outfielders who never have played first before.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | January 3, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

What this post ignores is LaRoche's main asset: defense. If Riz let Dunn walk because of weak defense, would he really pass on an above-average glove for a platoon of one guy who hasn't played first since, I believe, high school, and another guy who as far as I know has never played it?

Posted by: RIP-21 | January 3, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm a big supporter of Rizzo but I would hope that the Nats don't follow your logic and try to repackage this situation as one where they are talking about position production rather than position upgrade over last year reflecting combined offense and defense. If the Nats wanted above league average production, they had it with Dunn. He also had enormous fan and apparently clubhouse support. LaRoche or Lee or even Kotchman were discussed as pieces that made the team stronger by upgrading overall defense and providing sufficient offense. Make this solely about offense and I believe most Nats fans will feel betrayed. I'm not saying to bid against ourselves and overpay for LaRoche. But Lucy will have lots of questions that will need 'splainin' if the Nats end up with an Ankiel/Morse platoon.

Posted by: McKinley2 | January 3, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

La Roche is a lot better than Lyle Overbay.

He would help the team quite a bit in 2011. Replacing Dunn and Willingham with LaRoche and Werth leaves the team in pretty good shape. Now if some other players can improve the offense might get to be average or a little above.

Posted by: Pensfans | January 3, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Whenever I read something like this, I wonder if the reporter is just filling space/putting up fresh copy or are they actually basing these comments on some knowledge of the organization's plans. Because it doesn't make any sense to pretend that Morse/Ankiel could be a suitable alternative to LaRoche. First, it would seem to me that if Morse and Ankiel were acceptable alternatives to a first baseman, they would, you know, play first base, because the Nats used to have a guy who had to learn to play first base fulltime. Hit some homers, think his name was Dunn.

Second, I thought the goal was to get better, not to do another patch job.

Third, are the Nats really going to be burdened financially if they give LaRoche a multi-year deal? After signing Werth to a huge contract, now they want to exercise financial discipline?

Doesn't make sense. I'm going to assume for now this was just Kilgore killing time.

Posted by: baltova1 | January 3, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

We should distinguish between "league-average" and "replacement-level." The "replacement-level" 1B has 2010 stats that look something like 239/287/407 (Justin Smoak) or 231/310/385 (Mike Sweeney). LaRoche has a 2010 VORP of 15.2, comparable to Mike Napoli (16.0, ANA) and Michael Cuddyer (14.8, MIN). By comparison, Dunn's VORP last year was 40.5, better than Texiera, Howard, Ike Davis, and Gaby Sanchez, among others.
None of this takes defense into account, of course. And if Rizzo's really concerned about defense, you can forget about making a run at Prince Fielder.

Posted by: TomServo | January 3, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

The Nats need 1B to be an offensive driver, not just another position on the lineup card. They don't have some killer offense which simply lags a first baseman. They need to find a thumper, not just some servicable replacement caliber player(s) to bat 7th.

The suggested Morse/Ankile platoon at 1B does not work. Morse might surprise, but he cannot be expected to reproduce last year's outlier numbers (the guy never hit 20 HR's in the minors). He's not a MLB 1B despite his size and infielder pedigree, because he has never hit enough to be a 1B. Ankiel learning the position in the bigs as a legit option does not pass the laugh test.

The reality is that Rizzo needs to deliver at least 1 LHB that can hit 25 HR's. That guy needs to play pretty much every day and the platoon with Ankiel needs to add the other LHB to the order that has a chance of rapping an RBI double or HR from the 6 hole.

Talk about the Nats not being able to sign Fielder or Pujols down the road if they take on multiple years of LaRoche now is wildly misguided. If having LaRoche under a reasonable contract for a year or two down the line is what keeps the Nats from chasing a $150M+ player like Pujols, then let's have that problem then. In the mean time, Rizzo, get the player you need from what is available now.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 3, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I understand from recent articles that the failure to sign or trade Dunn was a combination of the difference of opinion between the team president and the GM and the owners' determination to wait until September to sign Dunn. I guess that could happen on a lot of teams. But doesn't LaRoche better fit Rizzo's profile - more athletic, much better defense - than anyone, including any conceivable platoon?

Posted by: 24thStNE | January 3, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"Doesn't make sense. I'm going to assume for now this was just Kilgore killing time."

Of course it is. It's already been reported elsewhere that the Nats have a two year offer on the table for LaRoche. Ergo, the bigger offer he's stupidly holding out for would be three years. Yet the basic premise on which Kilgore bases his article is "if the Nats are unable to sign LaRoche for one year." Duh.

Posted by: FeelWood | January 3, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Does the FO still think Morse cant hit leftys. If they have gotten rid of that terrible notion then I would say platoon. If they are still hesitant if he can hit pitchers from both sides then I guess sign LaRoche.
I just have a feeling that if you can give Mosrse 500-600 Ab he will produce a lot of the pop that left with Dunn and the Hammer.

Posted by: Stu27 | January 3, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Uh, I think I could live with LaRoche crippling the franchise with a two-year deal, much as I would hate to get our payroll up to around 65 million...

I like Adam, but I'm starting to wonder if he has been bought out by the Nats to make excuses for their failures.

So, a team that values defense puts an insane arm at first base (Ankiel) and obliterates our outfield depth with a platoon? We go with Morgan and Bernadina, who you could make a case are below average starters at best in left and center even versus lefties?

I like Mike Morse and might even give him the job but there is no real reason to not sign LaRoche if he accepts a two-year bridge to Marrero, Tyler, Bryce, or whoever...

Come on.

Posted by: CJArlington | January 3, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Did they change the National League rules to allow for the DH? Or did you just do a production analysis for a position and not bother to consider defensive performance?

I'm not sure which of these two possibilities is the more outlandish. Changing the NL rules to allow for a DH would be insane, but so is the notion that a beat writer fora major league team thinks doubles totals are more important than defense.

Posted by: Bowdenball | January 3, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Waiting for Pujols or Fielder? Are you nuts. That's like waiting for Lee. The odds of hitting the lottery are better. I can't get excited about the Morse/Ankiel platoon. Sign LaRoche for a multi-year deal and be done with it. I'll take league average at this point.

Posted by: JamesFan2 | January 3, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I see skins_fan_22 still seem incapable of reading? WTF dude why not go back to RI and argue the merits of keeping JC instead of going to, now defunct, Donovan McNabb.

Clearly, the Lerners are not cheap. That argument has been dashed on the rocks into so many small pieces it isn't funny. They signed Stras and Harper, over slotted 3 important pitchers in last year's draft. Overpaid Werth. So, is their money the problem? NO.

If you had been reading and following you would know that:

"SI.com's Jon Heyman says the "word is" that the Nationals offered Zack Greinke a big contract extension in an effort to entice him to join their team (Twitter links). He simply didn't believe the Nats could win, so he instead waived his no-trade clause to go to the Brewers. "

Even more really strong evidence to the contrary?

As far as Dunn is concerned Rizzo and the FO are pretty picky and what's wrong with that? Unlike circus ring master Bowden and even Kasten they refuse to let the Nats be doormats to any team ... whether Yankees, BoSox, or Phillies. Apparently, not on their watch.

They will do whatever it takes to turn this franchise into a winning one. I am willing wager they get their sooner than Shanny and son do.

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, the Nats are weighing the possibility of getting a promising blocked left handed first base prospect via trade to mix and match with Michael Morse. At this point why not go younger? Why not spin the wheel and see what happens before 2012 and the next free agent class?

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Come on now..., neither Fielder or Pujols is coming here, especially if this team implodes and drops another C spot in 11 and by the looks of it, its not beyond the realm of possibilities. Please Mr. Rizzo and Co, tell us fans what is is your exactly holding on to. LaRouche at 2 years is a bargain. On the other hand in NatsTown dumpster diving is always in season...., helllllllo Casey Kotchman, bring your glove and come on down! Jeez the season is already over even before its started.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | January 3, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo said time and again he believes in competition. If Morse can beat out Ankiel or LaRoche with his bat and is decent enough with the glove?

Hopefully, the same highly competitive situation will be happening between Syracuse and Harrisburg as well. Which could create some surprises before and after the all-star break.

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The issue isn't whether you can field a platoon that can hit .260 with 25 homers and 89 RBI. Of course you can. The issue is how well that platoon would play defense. In the case of Morse and Ankiel -- two guys who aren't really first basemen -- the answer is probably the equivalent of Dunn.

LaRoche is a better-than-average defensive first baseman who hits around the league average for his position. Sure, he's not a huge masher, but he hits well enough and will make put-outs in the field that would go for hits or reached-on-errors with Dunn (or Fielder) out there.

The only rationale for downgrading offensively from Dunn to a LaRoche is that the defensive upgrade more than makes up for the 15-home-run difference. If you're going to plug Morse and Ankiel in there, then the decision to let Dunn go looks really idiotic.

Posted by: js_edit | January 3, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"At this point why not go younger? Why not spin the wheel and see what happens before 2012 and the next free agent class?"

1 - Because trades cost prospects, and we don't have enough to give them up. And LaRoche only costs money, and we apparently are flush with "payroll flexibility".

2 - Zero chance we get Pujols or Adrian Gonzalez, who are both 96%+ likely to re-sign with their current team. Thus, with only Prince out there, and with all of MLB able to bid, and with Prince able to decide where to play, and with his 270 body being more suited to the AL, he'll end up with his best offers from AL clubs, not NL clubs.

Keep in mind, we thought we were gonna get pitching from the free agent class. How could anyone have any confidence that we can get a premier 1B in next year's free agent class?

Posted by: Sunderland | January 3, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo (in complete control, large and in charge) does not strike me as a Bowden-esque dumpster diver. Unless you think Werth falls under that heading?

His idea of dumpster diving appears to be taking a risk on former CY Young award winners coming back from injury.

He is the guy who brought Morse in for Langerhans (who is left handed hitting with power) initially for Syracuse. Its not like he handed Morse anything as was the case with someone named Willy Mo Pena ... not to mention da Meat Hook?

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Morse is the man who can play first base and be productive. This so called Laroche signing is a very bad move. Give Morse the chance to suceed... The nats org is a joke.

Posted by: chiro1623 | January 3, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"At this point why not go younger? Why not spin the wheel and see what happens before 2012 and the next free agent class?"

1 - Because a trade costs prospects, and we have precious few quality prospects. LaRoche only costs money, and we are fluch with "payroll flexibility" at this point.

2 - Pujolas and Adrian Gonzalez are 95%+ likely to re-sign with the current teams. Fielder will be out there, all of MLb could bid, and he'll have his pick of destination. His 270 lb frame is less of a risk in the AL, and his best offers will come from AL clubs.

3 - We were gonna get pitching from this year's free agent class, remember? Why would anyone have any confidence that we could get a premier 1B in next year's free agent class?

Posted by: Sunderland | January 3, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"The only rationale for downgrading offensively from Dunn to a LaRoche is that the defensive upgrade more than makes up for the 15-home-run difference."

What happens if Morse, Werth and Zimmerman hit over 30 next year? Morse hit 15 in far fewer plate appearances than the Hammer? That's 90 home runs.

It looks like it could end up as vast improvement over:

38 + 16 + 25 ... isn't it?

Then add in LaRoche and his 25?

Assuming the power Ramos showed in the winter leagues isn't a mirage he seems like he might be capable of hitting between 15-20. Now that's well over 100. If Morgan falters perhaps we'll see Corey Brown who does have power?

Espinosa is probably a year away after hamate surgery. But next year he could be good for 20?


Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Was this a parody post or for real?

We let Dunn go because of his defense. Fine, I have no problem with that. A legitimate glove at 1B will provide immeasurable help to our young middle infield and Zimm too.

But if Rizzo spends even one second considering a morse/ankiel platoon, I will lose all respect...and I am actually a rizzo fan. Might as well bring back Adam Kennedy and let him play full time.

Posted by: sollazo | January 3, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

As some suspected the Nationals didn't follow up the Werth signing with any major improvements to the roster.

No veteran pitchers added via free agency. No trades consummated.

Now, after pointing to Pena, Lee and LaRoche to succeed Dunn, the Nationals appear once again headed to cheapsville in order to come up with a platoon of part-timers who are making the vet minimum.

Wonderful.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | January 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

As some suspected the Nationals didn't follow up the Werth signing with any major improvements to the roster.

No veteran pitchers added via free agency. No trades consummated.

Now, after pointing to Pena, Lee and LaRoche to succeed Dunn, the Nationals appear once again headed to cheapsville in order to come up with a platoon of part-timers who are making the vet minimum.

Wonderful.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | January 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

This is one of the lamest posts ever. There is no suggestion from a source in the story that anyone in Natstown is actually contemplating the Morse/Ankiel platoon. Is this a plant from an invisible source to exercise leverage over Adam "Lyndon" LaRoche? For the reasons set forth by several readers, this would be a bad idea. Thank goodness the post offers no evidence that anyone is actually thinking about it.

Posted by: jdsp2000 | January 3, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

>>Was this a parody post or for real?

We let Dunn go because of his defense. Fine, I have no problem with that. A legitimate glove at 1B will provide immeasurable help to our young middle infield and Zimm too.

But if Rizzo spends even one second considering a morse/ankiel platoon, I will lose all respect...and I am actually a rizzo fan. Might as well bring back Adam Kennedy and let him play full time.
Posted by: sollazo

No, this is what you call a 'leak', it includes the info. the team wants you to have - that they've offered two years to LaRoche, and that Morse/Ankiel is now a platoon possibility at 1B. Guess what happens next? Pathological Pants is the problem. And we're stuck with him. Still waiting for the Pants Release trumpeting Maya as the rotation's savior when they fail to sign or trade for a decent starter. Pants is playing what's left of the rubes like a fiddle, but his audience is obviously getting smaller by the day.

Posted by: Brue | January 3, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Well this is just what i didn't want to see,first we basically let B-More slide in and get Lee now we're half-azzing away the LaRouche situation.I wasn't in the LaRouche camp to begin with but since we let ourselves get one upped on the Lee deal then at least sign LaRouche this is beginning to look like a cluster f_ck big time.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 3, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Solid post Adam.

The idea that you can't project a decent athlete like Morse, who came up as a shortstop, has played plenty of middle infield in the minors, played 3d quite a bit too, as at least an average 1b is ridiculous. It isn't that tough. Likewise, Ankiel has been able to play multiple positions and has shown an ability to adjust.

LaRoche has been an up and down defender in the last few years. 3 years UZR data has him almost spot on neutral, if you buy that, afte some disastrous years ealry in his career. Further, a quick look at LaRoche's splits vs. LHP and RHP shows a not too pretty picture v. LHP. How does a career .254 / .307 / .446 grab you? Also, for those who miss Adam Dunn, does a career 30% K rate v. LHP make you nostalgic? Granted, with this lineup, you should expect teams to load up on RHP, but you can expect LaRoche neutralized by a LOOGY everytime he comes up late and close with runners on.

Actually, the point about the hypothetical Morse / Ankiel platoon points out a need for a righty bench bat in addition to Morse. We could use platoons not only in left but also at first were we to sign LaRoche. A Jorge Cantu would be a nice complement to LaRoche. I can't see a decent RHB left fielder available for a platoon were we to use Morse mainly as a first baseman.

Platooning is under-utilized. It would be a far better option than just leaving LaRoche out there v. LHP the next tow to 3 years.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 3, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Ladson writes that we're getting closer on LaRoche...

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/01/03/adam-laroche-and-the-nationals-nearing-two-year-deal/

Posted by: Kev29 | January 3, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

This post has the smell of speculation on Kilgore's part. Wasn't it reported that the team was "searching for an external answer" at 1B some time ago?

Additionally, if the overall team focus is turning to pitching, defense & youth (the 'party line' for letting both Dunn & Willingham go), they'd now suddenly consider a Morse/Ankiel platoon at 1B. That makes no sense to me, on any level.

Without a stable situation at 1B that meets the projected needs of the current team (improved defense & steady offensive performance for two years), the goal of being a "competetive factor" in 2012 slides further toward a 2013-14 reality, imo.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

There's as much chance of Pujols or Fielder signing with the Nats as there is of Ted Williams "on ice" remains coming back to life and playing for the Red Sox next season. Besides, Fielder is quickly eating his way out of baseball, just like his father did.

Posted by: bupbups | January 3, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

There's as much chance of Pujols or Fielder signing with the Nats as there is of Ted Williams "on ice" remains coming back to life and playing for the Red Sox next season. Besides, Fielder is quickly eating his way out of baseball, just like his father did.

Posted by: bupbups | January 3, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Of course, Adam's post is speculation -- it was intended to be to provoke discussion, and it has.

I'm not advocating Morse as part of a first base platoon, but there shouldn't be any real concern about his ability to play 1B. He's played over 100 games there at AAA and the majors, over 100 games in the minors and majors at 3B and over 500 games at SS. The man can field a ground ball, for goodness sake.

I would be far less sure about Ankiel, who has no infield experience (unless you count pitching.) The Nats would need a LF bat for a L/R platoon and would need to give Morse time in LF as the right-hander in a 1B platoon wouldn't see that much action.

Not to sound like a broken record: The Nats should check on Nick Johnson, if things are bad enough that a platoon is seriously considered at 1B.

Posted by: nats24 | January 3, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

"Pathological Pants is the problem. And we're stuck with him. Still waiting for the Pants Release trumpeting Maya as the rotation's savior when they fail to sign or trade for a decent starter. Pants is playing what's left of the rubes like a fiddle, but his audience is obviously getting smaller by the day."

Its the brue crew again? Or should I say the Bowden-izer? Of course you would prefer JimBo well because you seem like JImBo? What a knuckle head.

Rizzo is pathological pants. He is backed by an FO that "you" brue Bowden refused to hire? Ego? More than likely. You know everything and have no need of any other expertise right?

Again, Brue you appear to be the toten hosen : empty pants. Panty waist limp wimp. Need I say more?

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

This whole item is just thinking out loud. Tabletop, fantasy baseball type stuff. LaRoche is an overall athlete, a pro first baseman. The only concern I have is the strikeout total. His 172 Ks in 2010 is troubling. We had enough of that from 1b here.

Posted by: PLPGE1 | January 3, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Brue, WAFI.

I suspect the whole ankiel / morse platoon is a smoke screen for something bigger. No one expected Rizzo to be in the running for Lee and Grienke yet there he was. This FO doesn't seem to give up now does it?

First base might just be filled by a pleasant surprise. We just don't know?

You won't know about it until it happens as Rizzo plays his cards very close to the vest. Sheesh his primary mlb.com correspondent talks Harper leaving ST2011 with the big club. That does not sound like Rizzo ... even without Keith Law guffawing and saying "not bloody likely?" I am really hoping that once they start winning they replace Pollyana Ladson with a real Nats reporter like Kilgore/Zuckerman/Goessling.

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wait until Rizzo made all of his off-season moves before complaining so much. Peric, there was only one worth while free agent available and he didn't want to come here. Arguably, the next best is still available with a fair chance that the Nats might sign him--although many on this site complain about that possibility as well. Can Rizzo win? Not a chance with many of the bloggers here. But it's been like that since the site began.
If Lee had signed here, Greinke had been traded for, Soriano added to the pen, and then LaRoche signed, Brue, Roy Hobbs, darmeggreg, swammi, Reds fan, and a number of others would still find reason to find fault with Rizzo, tha Lerners, Adam, the more positive fans, God, puppy dogs, comfort food--he'll, they'd likely even criticize natsfan1.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | January 3, 2011 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Can we review a couple of things, here.

1. Unless your team is in the playoffs, with a real chance to win, the football season is over (Sorry, the BCS killed any real interest and one weekend of watching the officials in the various bowl games just blow one call after another reminds me why I don't take college football seriously).

2. The NBA is a third of a year from being serious.

3. The NHL is further away from being serious.

4. March is forever away.

5. P & C are not going to report for another 6 weeks.

Ya got to write about something (especially if you are getting paid to produce words)! If any of you get the Bleacher report, or take a look at Kilgore's parallels in other cities...you will see that the baseball writers are all playing what if.

Yes, it's interesting to read about some of this stuff, but, please don't get your shorts in a twist.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 3, 2011 8:49 PM | Report abuse

I meant the one worth while free agent 'pitcher' available. And Peric, in case you misunderstood, I do not consider you a negative poster. I was just commenting on your point about free agent pitchers.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | January 3, 2011 8:52 PM | Report abuse

By the way, Pujols will retire a Cardinal unless someone does or says something really stupid (See: Jones, Adam).

Fielder is an AL player. Unless he loses some weight (say, Nyjer Morgan), he will disappear as a defensive player. If Milwaukee is in the race, at the trade deadline, they will keep him, offer him a big number, and work to become a semi-big city (i.e. Chicago, north/north)team. If they are out of it, they trade Fielder at the end of July and Greinke looks like a fool.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 3, 2011 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Brue, WAFI...

Posted by: periculum | January 3, 2011 8:22 PM |
===========================================
I'm pretty good at figuring out acronyms, and unless my talent fails me, the above would not suitable if spelled out.

Correct, periculum?

Posted by: gilbertbp | January 3, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse

mikecatcher - a nice dose of perspective, thanks.

Also completely agree about Pujols and Fielder.

And confident that Rizzo is playing this his way, and will get LaRoche at terms he (Rizzo) likes.

Posted by: Sunderland | January 3, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

But... but... the grassy knoll! and the stripe in the $20 bill! and, ummm, ... something to criticize!

Hey, we're bored, too.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

What RIP-21 said. Thank you.

Posted by: paulkp | January 3, 2011 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Never seen more people complain about offseason updates on a free blog. You guys are a bunch of idiots.

I quite enjoyed the post. To me, throwing out speculative ideas and/or comparisons to reality is exactly what offseason blogging is about. You don't like it? Wait til' Spring Training, or read some non-fiction baseball literature. I have quite the collection myself, and would be willing to offer suggestions.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | January 3, 2011 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Well I can't see Pujoles ever leaving St. Louis, but you would think Boras would point Fielder our way after all the business we're giving him. Honestly, we have to be Scott Boras' favorite team in the MLB right now.

As someone mentioned above, I would love to see Bernadina replace Morgan at CF. Use Morse and someone else (what was his name Justin Maxwell? Ian Maxwell?) at LF and 1B for the year. Then next year, when hopefully with Strasburgh, J.Z. and Marquis all HEALTHY at starting pitching, we can fill out our order with Fielder and Harper (he can play LF right? get on that minor league coaches).

Next offseason: Sign Fielder. Sign a high ranking starting pitcher. Keep our bullpen in tack, maybe adding one or two inning-eaters (though I think Atilano and Stamman could be converted and do that). That gives us a competitive 2012 team.

Posted by: mcgratsp | January 4, 2011 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Actually, the nice thing about all of this is that guys like Michael Morse, Chris Marerro, Tyler Moore might be reading ... and perhaps even Fielder, Pujols and Gonzalez have an inkling from such blogs.

Someone needs to man up and grab the spot. The Nats and their fans are tired of being doormats. The Werth, Stras, Harper, Solis, Cole, and Ray signings send a clear signal to that end.

You think coming to the Nats is like being picked last for a pickup game? Better than nothing? News flash: the Nats FO will look at you the same way dudes! No long term contracts for also-rans and mediocre near AAAA players. They want the very best for their franchise. And I am glad of it.

Posted by: periculum | January 4, 2011 1:09 AM | Report abuse

The 6 most telling words in Adam's post: "There are plenty of cheap options..."

Suddenly, the skies parted and the Lerners saw a bright light and heard a mysterious voice. Sign Jayson Werth, the voice said, and you will never again be called "cheap."

Yeah, right.

Hey Ted, that was just Boras with a flashlight and a megaphone.

Posted by: howjensen | January 4, 2011 7:31 AM | Report abuse

>>If Lee had signed here, Greinke had been traded for, Soriano added to the pen, and then LaRoche signed...

Posted by: jcampbell1

Then you'd look smart. But they didn't. So you don't. I guess all that in-your-face optimism isn't working too well. Don't blame the messengers, blame da Pants. Pants has something under the Xmas tree for you. Last place, all wrapped up with a little bow. Includes a card with all of his documented excuses and near-miss epics. Suck on eet and like eet

Posted by: Brue | January 4, 2011 7:43 AM | Report abuse

While Adam is a fine writer, am I the only one who notices that his posts almost always parallel what Ladson puts on the National's site? I have to wonder how much real reporting Adam does or if he just commiserates with Ladson and reports on those conversations.

Posted by: truke | January 4, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

That anybody could consider using Morse and Ankiel at first instead of a proven first baseman such as LaRoche, who just happens to be a rather good hitter to boot . . .

Speaking of "to boot," that's what you'll doubtless see a lot of from Morse/Ankiel as they try to learn a position the former has almost no experience of and that the latter has never played.

If Nots management wanted to fill the most competitive team possible, they'd seriously pursue LaRoche. That they're apparently still hoping for bargain basement alternatives tells you that not much has changed w/r/t to organizational philosophy down at Nots Landing.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | January 4, 2011 8:51 AM | Report abuse

But where do you draw the line for overpaying for LaRoche and the amount he brings to the table over Morse/Ankiel; let's say LaRoche will come but for 10M a year, is it worth if from a business perspective to pay that? I know as a Nats fan you can say we need to spend to make a team that attracts free agants in the future but you can't spend with a blind eye and write blank checks. If LaRoche was so good he'd be somewhere else by now... we can't let all players hold guns to Rizzo's head just because we stink. That being said, I hope he signs here.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | January 4, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

@Sec3...wait, wait...I just checked what you said. There is a stripe on the $20. You're right, it must be a secret Freemason code that will make sure that the Yankees win the W/S in every odd numbered year. Oh, the horror!

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 4, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Even if the Nats used a platoon at first, Morse would play there less than a third of time (only against the lefties). Add that to that the fact that he has played more games in his professional career in the infield -- including more than 100 games at first -- than the OF, concerns about his defense are unwarranted.

It's all about hitting and getting a power left-handed bat full-time for first or to platoon w/ him. I know it's likely to happen, but I don't like LaRoche being the answer through '12.

Posted by: nats24 | January 4, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Please. Sign LaRoche now and when you sign Pujols or Fielder, trade him, eating some of his salary if necessary. Because I don't think the Nats should do anything to make sure they have the "flexibility" to sign Albert Pujols. Signing Pujols would be so transformative that LaRoche's contract would be a mere detail. At the same time, imo, it's so unlikely that it's not worth having another year without an unfilled position to make it easier.

Posted by: markfromark | January 4, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

This is an excellent analysis. The point is that It's LaRoche that has limited options. Nobody is going to give him more than the Nats. So Rizzo needs to hang tough and not get panicky.

Pitching is another story. They need to sign Pavano to a 3 year deal. If they don't he'll go to Minnesota.

Posted by: cr8oncsu | January 4, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

By the way, I thought it was an excellent article. I mean, there's only so much stuff happening during the offseason of a lousy team, and this gives us something to think about, presumably based on something that somebody in a position of authority or knowledge has talked about. What more can you ask, until Assange turns his attention to the Nats.

Posted by: markfromark | January 4, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

SCNatsFan: Sadly, the abysmal record of this team under the Lerner's ownership does mean that they are going to have to overpay to rebuild, make that build, a team. Steps have been made in good drafts the last 2 years and the Werth signing. The middle infield appears to be set (may or may not work out that way, but a reasonable chance). But if the pervasive reports about the 3 year contract that was available in mid-season are true, letting Dunn go appears to have been a very poor decision damaging to the team and disheartening to the fan base. The 1B situation is a glaring problem because they claimed that it was not cheapness but rather a devotion to better D that led to Dunn's departure. If they now put a makeshift platoon made up of two outfielders at 1B, neither of whom can be expected to improve D and who detract from the O they had with Dunn, they really come off as incompetent or deceitful or cheap or some combo of the above. This sort of thing is self perpetuating--we lost the starting pitcher we targeted because he did not believe we could win. We have to change that perception in order to attract first string players and to keep those we already have.

I was optimistic enough after the Werth signing to re-up my ST package (after retrieving it from the trash where I'd thrown it when Dunn left) but I am dismayed about the inability of the team to sign SP or a serious 1B player. I isn't one or the other--they desperately need both to avoid yet another 90+ loss season. We need to have a base from which a team with Harper and Stras can go forward. Right now, we do not, and this is the year it needs to start happening if we are to take advantage of what is lurking out there for 2012.

Posted by: NatsFly | January 4, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"But where do you draw the line for overpaying for LaRoche and the amount he brings to the table over Morse/Ankiel[?]"

You're talking about a proven, everyday major leaguer of no little distinction versus a couple of marginal spare parts who've never been able to hold down a regular ML position, one of them a failed pitcher.

The line is the difference between a bona fide ML ballplayer and a couple of never-weres. Do the Nots want to fill this gaping hole with the former, or with pieces of flotsam and jetsam? As you yourself admit, they'd be much better off with LaRoche, which answers the question about what a real ML team would do.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | January 4, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one came up with the correct response to this post. The title simply states, "Weighing Adam LaRoche and a first base platoon."

And the correct response would be: 640

LaRoche = 205 lbs
Morse = 230 lbs
Ankiel = 205 lbs
-----------------------
Total = 640 lbs

There. Now I say we all pool some money together, buy some MegaMillion tickets (or whatever inane lotto is playing tonight), then when we win we offer to take over half of the club from the Lerners and show them how to spend money frivolously!

Who's with me?! Let's go!!!!

Posted by: erocks33 | January 4, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

"Add that to that the fact that [Morse] has played more games in his professional career in the infield -- including more than 100 games at first -- than the OF, concerns about his defense are unwarranted."

His ML career includes 37 games played at 1B, amounting to 144 innings. That's just under 4 innings per game. Add to that 49 games at first as a minor leaguer, and you have 86 games total in an 11-year professional career, not "more than 100" as you would have it. In other words, he has no experience there worth talking about, and the fact that most of his professional games were played at shortstop just goes to show that he's inadeqaute at the position.

This decision is really a no-brainer, but the Nots aren't known for making the right choices when presented with these, so I don't expect they'll do so now either.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | January 4, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

If ever there was a need for a new post, it is now (actually, it was yesterday at about 1:40pm).

Posted by: thelonghaul | January 4, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Sign Laroche. Even if Fielder is available in 2012, you know his agent will ask for the moon. He's vulnerable vs. lefties, and a terrible fielder. Not an upgrade over Dunn in my opinion (except for his youth, I suppose). He's also a head case. Talk about daddy issues... Nope. Sign LaRoche and take the average hitting and good defense. When Harper arrives, we'll have Desmond, Zim, Harper, Werth, LaRoche, Ramos... starting to sound like a real team.

Posted by: kerewin1971 | January 4, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"If they now put a makeshift platoon made up of two outfielders at 1B, neither of whom can be expected to improve D and who detract from the O they had with Dunn, they really come off as incompetent or deceitful or cheap or some combo of the above."

Uhh... Adam Dunn was himself an OF playing 1B. The big difference is that Ankiel and Morse are well above average defenders. They would improve the D at 1B significantly. Still though I support signing LaRoche.

Please remember that winning teams rarely have below average defenders at any position, but they frequently have below average hitters.


Posted by: db423 | January 4, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

He's above average defensively and a virtual lock to hit 25 homeruns a year (very consistent power numbers) - this should be a no-brainer.

You would at least have a potent middle of the lineup with Zimmerman, Laroche, and Werth.

By the way, I thought the Werth signing was going to attract all these big name FAs. When are they arriving?

Posted by: tpricci | January 4, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"The big difference is that Ankiel and Morse are well above average defenders. They would improve the D at 1B significantly."

Just because you can track down balls in the outfield well doesn't mean you can be an adequate first baseman. Things happen a lot faster in the infield. And Rick Ankiel has been a professional ballplayer for 13 years. He has never played as a first baseman. Neither he nor Morse have proven they are capable of holding down even a semi-regular spot on a ML team. To say they will undoubtedly be an improvement over Dunn as fielders is ridiculous.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | January 4, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"Neither he nor Morse have proven they are capable of holding down even a semi-regular spot on a ML team. To say they will undoubtedly be an improvement over Dunn as fielders is ridiculous."

Morse played major league shortstop. I think that makes him an infielder more than an outfielder. In point of fact until this past season he played various infield positions far more than the outfield. Morse played many games at third, short, second, and first base in AAA. Most would tend to give him the edge fielding wise at first over Dunn by a very wide margin.

Posted by: periculum | January 4, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

This is a great idea. Mike Morse is a stand out from last year who deserves his shot. Its now or never, and if it doesn't work out? Well, then sign Prince Fielder next year (NOT Pujols, too much money and he isn't getting any younger).

Posted by: shred11 | January 4, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"Morse played major league shortstop. I think that makes him an infielder more than an outfielder."

Yes, he has appeared in a total of 57 games as a shortstop in the major leagues. So what? How good a first baseman would Ozzie Smith have been? You're claiming that infield positions are interchangeable. They aren't. Take a GG at one position, stick him at another, and watch him struggle (Alex Rodriguez at 3B is just one example that comes to mind).

Morse has almost no experience at first base in 11 years as a professional baseball players as the numbers I listed above prove (check baseballrefernce.com if you don't believe me). As to his being a better fielder than Dunn, well, it would be difficult not to be. Dunn was the worst first baseman I've seen since Dave Kingman in the early 1980s.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | January 4, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

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